A Passion To Serve And Befriend The Lower-Income And Vulnerable

Learn how a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) officer finds a balance between providing social assistance to Singaporeans while at work and managing a charity kitchen in his free time.
Be inspired by this MSF officer who goes the extra mile to provide social assistance to Singaporeans.

Meet 37-year-old Chan Guo Xiong, a Regional Services Officer with the Social Service Offices (SSOs) @ Toa Payoh and Jalan Besar, He has a passion for helping lower-income and vulnerable people in the community.

In his day job at the SSO, he works closely with government agencies, social service agencies and the community to provide comprehensive, convenient and coordinated support for individuals and families in need.

Outside of work hours, he continues to contribute to the wider community. He volunteers with Mummy Yummy, a ground-up community welfare organisation that distributes vegan meals to people in need across Singapore.

Guo Xiong joined Mummy Yummy in 2014 as a volunteer and was the overall in-charge from January 2016 till May 2021. He now serves as an advisor, guiding new and existing initiatives or programmes.

Fostering Strong Community Partnerships

As an SSO officer, Guo Xiong has to understand the complex needs of the clients and work with different agencies to ensure that clients receive the support they need.

He engages community partners to develop programmes and provide various forms of assistance (e.g. counselling) to address clients’ multi-faceted needs. This includes helping community partners understand the government’s considerations when providing assistance.

As a volunteer with Mummy Yummy, Guo Xiang has the unique opportunity to understand the challenges faced by community welfare organisations and the role they play in serving the needs of the lower-income and vulnerable people, by complementing government assistance.

Through his SSO experience, he was also able to link Mummy Yummy clients to the support that they require.

Guo Xiong’s stints at both the SSO and Mummy Yummy have helped him realise the importance of partnership between government agencies and different stakeholders in supporting the community.

“I truly feel that forging strong community partnerships is the key to better serving the lower-income and vulnerable,” he said. “Beneficiaries will be best supported when different agencies and stakeholders integrate efforts to “work as one”.”

It also puts him in good stead to roll out the Community Link (ComLink) initiative as part of his role as an SSO officer, which will see the government and community work even closer together to support lower-income families with children living in rental housing.

ComLink: A Partnership Between Government, Community and Families

Community Link (ComLink) is an initiative that provides holistic support to uplift families with children living in rental housing towards stability, self-reliance, and social mobility.

  • Who: Government agencies and the community, including ground-up community groups, social service agencies and volunteers.
  • What It Does: ComLink proactively reaches out to families, provides close case support, and galvanises the community to organise customised programmes and services for the families.

In 2019, ComLink was piloted at four sites: Boon Lay, Jalan Kukoh, Kembangan-Chai Chee and Marsiling. Over the next three years, ComLink will be scaled up to be a nationwide initiative, reaching 21 towns and supporting some 14,000 families.

To join ComLink as a volunteer, you can apply here.

What Keeps Him Going

Through Guo Xiong’s day job and volunteer work, he seeks to uplift the lower-income and vulnerable in the community. The meaning he finds in his work keeps him going despite the long hours that both roles require.

In addition to distributing food aid, Mummy Yummy participates in the Vulnerable-In-Community (VIC) Network that was set up by MSF in 2019.

As part of the VIC Network, Guo Xiong befriends vulnerable individuals such as tissue sellers and cardboard collectors to understand their circumstances, and render support if they are willing.

Community work also helps volunteers to keep an eye on frail or vulnerable residents and provide swift help.

Once, during their regular food distribution, Mummy Yummy volunteers came across an old lady lying unresponsive in her unit’s bathroom. The volunteers immediately called the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, who broke into the house to rescue her.

On managing his time and energy between multiple responsibilities, Guo Xiong shared that having the support of his family, friends and colleagues helped him. He also stressed the importance of having regular breaks and continuous learning to make the work more manageable and enjoyable.

A Whole-of-Singapore “Kampung Spirit”

COVID-19 has significantly affected lower-income and vulnerable individuals and families. The SSOs and Mummy Yummy have both stepped up efforts during this period to support their clients, while adjusting operations to comply with safe management measures.

Despite the longer hours, seeing everyone’s smiles and feeling the “kampung spirit” when different stakeholders come together keeps him going. He relishes the opportunities “to get to know so many good partners, share views and support one another” in this journey of helping those in need.

Ultimately, Guo Xiong believes that supporting and uplifting the vulnerable requires a whole-of-Singapore approach. “As public officers, we can lead by example and do our part through volunteering and contributing to this effort”, he said.

Guo Xiong’s Tips for Balancing Work and Volunteering Responsibilities

  • Avoid being in any position that might lead to conflicts of interest.
  • Inform your reporting officer(s) about your volunteer work responsibilities and discuss any possible conflicts of interest that could arise.
  • Always check with your superiors and colleagues when in doubt.
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    Sep 22, 2021
    Candice Leow
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